Dasigal Mosavalai (Web of Deceit) propagates the abolition of the devadasi system and seeks to reclaim youth from the temptations and immorality of the dasi. And yet in the very process of articulating the demand, the novel uncovers different layers of resistance and acquiescence to this demand. It is the story of lived lives, of political aspirations, of wealth, and of love in its several forms (maternal, paternal, conjugal, fraternal, sororal, erotic, for instance), of sexual desire – female and male. It documents the shift from one historical epoch to another using the space of the story to map these changes.
Born in 1883, in an Isai Vellalar family in Muvalur village of Thanjavur district, Ramamirthammal began her political career in the Congress, and went on to become an active Self Respecter and a passionate abolitionist. While supporting Muthulakshmi Reddi’s measures for legal reform, she struck a clearly different note in her articulation of the root cause of the system, locating herself firmly within the ideology of the Self Respect Movement.
In the introduction, Kalpana Kannabiran and Vasanth Kannabiran frame the novel in the large intersecting economies of the state, land, reform, caste, culture, morality and conjugality in a period of transition. Through a feminist analysis of judicial discourse, constructions of gender and family, and the politics of citizenship that contain the complex interconnections between abolition, anti abolition, self respect, nationalism and the performing arts, they provide insights with an intricacy of detail that deepens an understanding of the novel.
KALPANA KANNABIRAN & VASANTH KANNABIRAN are founder members of Asmita Resource Centre for Women Secunderabad and were part of Stree Shakti Sanghatana in the early 1980s.
Vasanth Kannabiran is a creative writer, poet, and translator. Among her books are A Grief to Bury: Memories of Love, Work and Loss (2011) and Taken at the Flood: A Political Memoir (2020).
Kalpana Kannabiran is a sociologist and legal researcher. She has taught at NALSAR University of Law and is Director of Council for Social Development, Hyderabad. Among her publications are Tools of Justice: Non Discrimination and the Indian Constitution (2012), Law, Justice and Human Rights (2021 forthcoming). She is co-author of Gender Regimes and the Politics of Privacy (2021 forthcoming).